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Ricky Skaggs

Ricky Skaggs & Bruce Hornsby – 2007 (Sony Legacy)

Reviewed by Dr. Bobby Jones

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Ricky Skaggs and Bruce Hornsby. One has to speculate as to what reaction purists might have.

Skaggs' music is no longer confined only to the traditional. (If not convinced by track 11, Rick James' "Super Freak," one surely must then reconsider.) At the same time, Skaggs does not abandon his roots. His mandolin is clearly bluegrass, and the musical dialog with Hornsby's piano is the instrumental highlight.

Anyone claiming Hornsby lacks an understanding of the traditional will be equally surprised as he rips through the modern old time "Sheep Shell Corn." Just because he has jammed with Dylan or the Grateful Dead doesn't mean he can't play traditional music, as many tunes feel like they originated in Appalachian mountain music.

Hearing the two sing together recalls the best of brother duets, allowing country and pop to communicate musically without difficulty. Be it the opening electrified Jew's harp on the instrumental "Stubb," the piano kickoff on Hornsby's "Mandolin Rain" or the bluegrass mandolin chops of Skaggs, the collaboration defies categorization at every turn.

Masters of their respective genres, the two threw caution, record company executive demands and marketing schemes to the wind and decided to simply speak the international language of music, effortlessly mixing pop standards and new traditional tunes.